Clinical Drug Trials, Ad Blockers, Firefox: Monday Evening Buzz, February 19, 2018


Boing Boing: FDAAA Trials Tracker: leaderboard for pharma companies that break FDA clinical trial rules. “The US government currently requires all trials to be registered on when they start — trials that aren’t reported in at their commencement are not eligible for consideration during FDA evaluation; and since is public, it should be possible for the public and watchdogs to discover whether pharma companies are reporting in on all their trials. That’s where FDAAA Trials Tracker comes in: it downloads an XML dump from, analyzes it, and tracks which trials are due or overdue, as well as ‘whether they have reported results in accor- dance with the law; give performance statistics for each individual trial sponsor; and calculate potential fines that could have been levied by the FDA against sponsors.'”


Wired: Google’s New Ad Blocker Changed The Web Before It Even Switched On. “Despite the advance hype, the number of sites Chrome will actually block ads on turns out to be quite small. Of the 100,000 most popular sites in North America and Europe, fewer than one percent violate the guidelines Google uses to decide whether to filter ads on a site, a Google spokesperson tells WIRED. But even if Chrome never blocks ads on a page you visit, Google’s move has already affected the web. The company notified sites in advance that they would be subject to the filtering, and 42 percent made preemptive changes, the spokesperson says, including Forbes, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and In Touch Weekly.”


Make Tech Easier: How to Add, Create and Manage Search Engines in Firefox. “Like Google Chrome, Firefox is a heavily customizable browser. One of the many settings you can change is choosing which search engines are installed within the browser. These search engines allow you to search different websites from your search engine toolbar. By default, this toolbar is located on the far right of the menu bar. By setting your default search engine, you can also change how searches from the main address bar work.”

MakeUseOf: Make YouTube Better With These Awesome Web Apps and Extensions. “As great as YouTube is, there are a few things that could be better… and these websites and extensions fill those gaps till YouTube itself adds the features. There are already plenty of tools to make YouTube better, from downloading videos to turning it into a floating player. But there are still some missing abilities. Like clipping a video, for instance, or searching text within the audio. Check these out.” Nice roundup with good annotations.


TechCrunch: Fake news is an existential crisis for social media . “The claim and counter claim that spread out around ‘fake news’ like an amorphous cloud of meta-fakery, as reams of additional ‘information’ — some of it equally polarizing but a lot of it more subtle in its attempts to mislead (for e.g., the publicly unseen ‘on background’ info routinely sent to reporters to try to invisible shape coverage in a tech firm’s favor) — are applied in equal and opposite directions in the interests of obfuscation; using speech and/or misinformation as a form of censorship to fog the lens of public opinion. This bottomless follow-up fodder generates yet more FUD in the fake news debate. Which is ironic, as well as boring, of course. But it’s also clearly deliberate.” One of those articles that deserves a better headline than it gets. A deep dive with lots of links to other news articles and background. Very good stuff.

Columbia Journalism Review: Erasing history. “In the 21st century, more and more information is ‘born digital’ and will stay that way, prone to decay or disappearance as servers, software, Web technologies, and computer languages break down. The task of internet archivists has developed a significance far beyond what anyone could have imagined in 2001, when the Internet Archive first cranked up the Wayback Machine and began collecting Web pages; the site now holds more than 30 petabytes of data dating back to 1996. (One gigabyte would hold the equivalent of 30 feet of books on a shelf; a petabyte is a million of those.) Not infrequently, the Wayback Machine and other large digital archives, such as those in the care of the great national and academic libraries, find themselves holding the only extant copy of a given work on the public internet. This responsibility is increasingly fraught with political, cultural, and even legal complications.”

Advertising Age: Amazon, YouTube, Twitter Are Said To Eye Bids For NFL Rights. “Amazon, YouTube and Twitter are all weighing bids for streaming rights to ‘Thursday Night Football,’ according to people with knowledge of the matter, providing the latest evidence of technology companies’ growing interest in live sports.” NFL Football is not the first sport I’d think about dropping big dollars on….


Emacsen’s Blog: Why OpenStreetMap is in Serious Trouble . “I was a contributor for OpenStreetMap for a long time, and I advocated for OpenStreetMap for a long time, but the project has stalled while the proprietary mapping world has continued to improve in data quality. For those of us who care about Free and Open data, this is a problem. In this article, I explore the reasons why I think OSM has stalled, as well as solutions to get the project back on track.”

The Verge: The Mueller indictment exposes the danger of Facebook’s focus on Groups. “A year ago this past Friday, Mark Zuckerberg published a lengthy post titled ‘Building a Global Community.’ It offered a comprehensive statement from the Facebook CEO on how he planned to move the company away from its longtime mission of making the world “more open and connected” to instead create “the social infrastructure … to build a global community.” He identified a number of challenges to realizing his mission, and ranking high among them was the political polarization of his user base.”

Monday Note: Facebook has a Big Tobacco Problem. “Facebook never sought to be the vector of in-depth knowledge for its users, or a mind-opener to a holistic view of the world. Quite the opposite. It encouraged everyone (news publishers for instance) to produce and distribute the shallowest possible content, loaded with cheap emotion, to stimulate sharing. It fostered the development of cognitive Petri dishes in which people are guarded against any adverse opinion or viewpoint, locking users in an endless feedback loop that has become harmful to democracy. Facebook knew precisely what it was building: a novel social system based on raw impulse, designed to feed an advertising monster that even took advantage of racism and social selectiveness (read ProPublica’s investigation on the matter).” Good evening, Internet…

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